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If you know me in real life, you know that I am a rather voracious reader. I love books. When I was younger and people asked me what my hobbies were, I would say reading. I still say this. I remember one time when I was 12 and a friend came over and I was finishing up a book. I kept telling her “just give me a couple more minutes, I’m almost done,” and she got so frustrated and tired of waiting that she finally took my book from me and threw it in the pool.
I will admit that I was being rather rude, but destroying my book?!? A bit extreme, if you ask me.
Anyway, I love books and I read quite a bit. I read at least a book a month because of my beloved book club, but I usually read at least one more throughout the month. This year I’ve read some phenomenal books as well as some super waste of time fails. I love getting recommendations from friends, so I thought I’d share my “worth reading” and “don’t bother” books of 2012. Enjoy!
Next to Love - I loved this book. It follows the lives of three women during WWII, but it’s not a typical war story by any means. It’s a war story told from the voices we rarely hear – what it was like to be left at home alone during this time. What it was like for the women left behind. It’s a beautiful story of love and friendship and loss, and what American society was like before and after WWII. My book club rarely agrees but this was pretty much unanimously enjoyed.
The Language of Flowers - I randomly downloaded this to my kindle, and I unexpectedly loved this book. The story itself is nothing Pulitzer prize worthy, but it’s really good, and more than anything I loved learning about the meanings of flowers. It’s about the foster care system and takes place in SF (which I loved), but mostly it’s about the old language of flowers. However, a word of caution: I read this after my wedding and started to go a little crazy by analyzing what all the flowers I had meant.
Me: would you call the roses in my bouquet yellow or peach?
Me: are you sure? I think they were more peach.
Kevin: I’m pretty sure they were yellow.
Me: well this is just terrible! Yellow means jealousy! I can’t believe I could walk down the aisle with flowers that meant jealousy! Why would I start off our marriage holding something that represents such a terrible trait?!?!
Kevin: you are crazy.
Scene: Kevin has just brought me home sunflowers, previously one of my favorite flowers.
Me: didn’t I tell you that we can’t get sunflowers anymore!? sunflowers represent false riches!
Kevin: I hate you.
I Know This Much Is True - A looooong book but well worth reading. A fictional tale that realistically portrays what it is like to love someone who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. The people in this story will stick with you for a long time.
The Sandcastle Girls - I’ve read quite a few books by this author (my favorite being Skeletons at the Feast), and this one is by far one of his better books. It’s historical fiction about the Armenian genocide. It’s moving and heartbreaking and wonderful all at the same time. It’s also very informative, because after reading this I realized just how little I knew about the Armenian genocide and the repercussions and horrors that still haunt people to this day.
Gone Girl - I’m sure you’ve heard about this book. I loved it and couldn’t put it down. Best writing ever? No. Captivating and compelling? Yes. Definitely worth reading in my opinion.
A Long Way Down - If you are a fan of Nick Hornby (and who isn’t?), you will like this book. I laughed out loud more times than I count. I connected to the characters. I missed them after I finished the book. Perhaps not the most realistic story but overall a good read.
The Happiness Project - I reviewed this book here and here. Overall I really enjoyed this book and I think it provides some great tips and ideas for taking control of your own happiness, but I will say that multiple times while reading I found the author, Gretchen Rubin, incredibly obnoxious and almost unbearably smug. Still worth reading though.
The Marriage Plot - This book had mixed reviews at my book club, but I really enjoyed it. It follows a young couple during their last year of college and after. The constant literary and philosophical references did start to bug me, but I enjoyed following the lives of Madeleine, Leonard and Mitchell so much that I was able to overlook that part of it. It took me a while to get into though.
Unsaid - If you are an animal lover, I think you will really connect with this book. That said, I don’t really consider myself a big animal person, and I still really enjoyed it. It’s told from the perspective of Helena, a veterinarian who has recently died and is looking down on/watching the lives of all of those she loved, including her many animals. It sounds cheesy but it’s really not. Its actually believable and beautiful, and I couldn’t put it down. I cried and I laughed and I connected. My idea of a good read.
Rules of Civility - This was originally on my “whatever” list, not because I didn’t like it, but because I wasn’t left with any sort of lasting impression. However, the more I thought about it the more I realized how much I enjoyed it, and just how beautiful of a story it was. It’s about a group of friends in upper society Manhattan in the 40s. I loved the characters, but I also loved getting a glimpse of what socialite life was like 60 years ago, and how much (and little) has changed since then.
The Violets of March - Ehh. I can’t even remember what this book was about it was so unmemorable. I do, however, remember being horribly unsatisfied when it was over. Don’t bother.
Before Ever After - I downloaded this book right before a long flight so I was stuck with it. It was horrible. If I wasn’t trapped on a long plane ride I would have stopped reading after chapter two. Terrible. Stupid. Juvenile. I don’t know how it got published (or how it has any good reviews on Amazon). It was just… embarrassingly bad. Twilight was better written.
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter - I wanted to like this but I just didn’t. It was boring. So very boring.
Neither Great nor Terrible
When I was comprising this list I realized that I had also read a lot of books that were kind of in the “whatever” zone. Books that were not necessarily bad but were far from great, and not really worth mentioning. You know, books that you read and finished and kind of went “meh.” However, to pay respect where respect is due, my “whatever” list is below.
The Fault in Our Stars - Most people LOVED this book. I liked it, but it was nothing to rave about. I’m actually surprised by all the hype it’s received.
The Woman Who Wasn’t There - I debated about listing this at all because the book itself wasn’t that great, but the story is completely captivating. It’s a true story about a woman who claimed to be a survivor of 9/11. It’s a really quick read, and it’s so crazy that you really can’t believe its true. I wrote more about this here.
Fifty Shades of Grey - What can I say about this? It’s so incredibly stupid, and the writing is just horrendous, but… if you are not into porn and are looking for something to help spice things up, this is bound to get your juices flowing, if you know what I mean. I wrote more about it here.
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened - By Queen Blogger Jenny Lawson aka “The Blogess” herself, this book is her personal memoir. It is definitely funny, but by the end I was ready for it to be over. It got to be a bit annoying.
The Tiger’s Wife - I kept waiting to love this book and it just didn’t happen. Most of my book club felt the same. I’m still not really sure what the book is supposed to be about.
Wild - A memoir about a woman’s journey on the Pacific Crest Trail. I didn’t dislike this book, per say, I just didn’t find the author a very likable person, which kind of ruined it for me.
What do you think? Did you read any books I’ve listed above? I’m always on the lookout for good recommendations, so if you’ve read anything lately that I haven’t mentioned, please pass it along!